AFL great Kane Cornes says North Melbourne is treating out-of-favour star Jared Polec in “demeaning” fashion by relegating him from the senior squad.
Kangaroos coach Rhyce Shaw isn’t impressed with the silky midfielder, leaving him out of the side for a third straight game on Sunday as Gold Coast hammered the Roos by 63 points.
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That’s despite Polec being one of the highest-paid players at the club — which is nursing a grim injury toll and enduring a horror year, slumping to 17th on the ladder with only three wins from 14 games.
Polec joined North Melbourne from Port Adelaide at the end of 2018, signing a big-money, five-year deal reportedly worth approximately $3.5 million to remain at Arden St until the end of 2023. He has three years remaining on his contract, expected to earn $700,000 a season if he sees it through, but his future is murky.
Instead of strutting his stuff against the Suns, Polec was relegated to playing a scratch match for the Collingwood reserves to get some game time.
“That’s demeaning for any player” Port Adelaide legend Cornes told Channel 9’s Footy Classified. “To have three years to go on big money, it was a questionable acquisition at the time.
“Clearly the current regime of (general manager of football) Brady Rawlings and Rhyce Shaw didn’t have a big say in recruiting Jared Polec.
“It almost seems as though they’re making a statement and saying, ‘Well, this wasn’t our call, we didn’t pull the trigger on this’, and he’s paying the price for that.”
The Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph reported recently Polec has missed four of the past six AFL games because Shaw had “tired of his inability to play selfless team-first football”.
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But Cornes doesn’t believe Polec is travelling that badly, especially compared to other players in the under-performing Roos outfit. He says if North really want to cut ties with the 27-year-old, they’re better off playing him in every match so rival teams can see what he has to offer, driving up his value at the trade table at the end of the year.
“Is he really performing that bad? Now clearly they’re worried about his defensive actions, but he was seventh in their Best and Fairest last year — that’s not a disaster,” Cornes said.
“He’s averaging 20 disposals, three tackles and three clearances this year. His form isn’t that bad as opposed to some of the other players running around in the North Melbourne jumper.
“It is ridiculous the way that they’re treating Jared Polec, because if you want to trade him what value is he running around for Collingwood in a scratch match?
“Put him in the side and get his value up and then at least deal with it in a mature way at the end of the season.”
Shaw took over as caretaker coach when Brad Scott stood down midway through last season, and was appointed on a full-time basis for this season.
While North enjoyed a revival of sorts under his leadership last season, 2020 has been a trainwreck.
“I just think far too often clubs get sucked into the performances of caretaker coaches,” Cornes said.
“You automatically get a response and a bounce when a new voice comes in and a coach who’s been there for a while moves on.
“You got that last year, which was impressive, but clearly they got sucked in by that late run of form last year after Rhyce Shaw took over.”